The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Finally got oven spring, question about crust...

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cfiiman's picture
cfiiman

Finally got oven spring, question about crust...

Hey everyone, brand new for the most part, only made half a dozen loaves or so, concentrating on just an artisan round bread, I think they call boule?  Anyway so tonight was the first one I'm really proud of I guess, i'm only using APF as my starters are no where near ready, so I'm just practicing.  I'm concentrating on crum texture and a nice crust and this is what brings me to my issue.  The recipe I'm using is the master recipe in "artisan bread in 5 minutes a day", however I feel like their recipe is sooooo wet that most of my boules are just flat, only a few inches high at best b/c they spread out instead of up.  I figured this was due to being unable to "tighten" the gluten enough to get it to fight the spread and b/c my stone was not getting hot enough due to a large water pan I use for steam.  Even though my crumb has gotten really nice and the texture and feel of the bread when eating is great as well, I just haven't been able to get that elusive "oven spring" they talk about.  

So I made 3 changes today after measuring my stone with an IR thermo and seeing that the steam was killing the heat so that the bottom was still white and the top would burn.  I decided to nix the steam pan completely after several "different" tries with it, and my stone came right up to temp.  The second thing I did was put a roasting pan over the bread for the first 15 minutes to create a makeshift "dutch oven steamer" using just the moisture in the dough.  The last change was I added a bunch more flour to the mixture after taking it out of the fridge to mix it up for the proofing.  I made it much dryer and kept stretching the dough around until it was tighter than I had ever gotten it and held more of a "ball" shape.  The result was the picture below, almost exactly what I was aiming for!

This is the crumb from my last one that was much flatter:

The crust didn't have that "shine" that when I use the steamer pan and spritzer has.  Should I have maybe spritzed the dough a good amount right before putting the pan over it?  I'm guessing maybe there wasn't enough steam inside the pan from the dough, maybe b/c I made the mixture much drier than ever before.  I'm looking for that perfect crust and thought maybe some of you all could tell me what would get me there.  Also how "crusty" should the bread be, I mean when it cools down should make a bunch of "crackly" noise when you tear or cut it?  Mine does right after it comes out of the oven, but when it cools down the "hardness" of the crust is substantially reduced, is this normal?  Thanks for any insight!  

Blacksilk Helen's picture
Blacksilk Helen

A few suggestions for the bake. How much water are you putting in your steam pan, and is it hot water?  If not it should be.  Try a small cast iron skillet for a steam pan, and preheat it along with your baking stone.  When you add the hot water it will steam fiercely giving the bread an extreme shot of steam but evaporating quickly enough so as not to soften the crust.  From your picture, it looks like you need to bake it a little longer.  It should be a more burnished brown and if the crust is softening after it cools that means there is still too much water content in the loaf.  Otherwise, your loaf is very nice, I encourage you to keep baking!

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

can be too much of a challenge for a beginning bread baker.  But, well developed gluten in a wet dough that is porperly shaped and proofed is the the way to get the best oven spring and large irregular holes.  When my loaves lack spring it is almost entirely because they were over proofed (over 90%). 85-90% proofing is good and 92% and more are bad for oven spring,   Doing it all right just takes practice to develop bread skills, learn good timing, and knowing when the bread is ready for the oven.  It is better to start with a lower hydration, say 68%, and work your way up as your bread skills improve.  In no time at all, you will be make wet dough explode in the oven - or you are cursed by the bread gods like my apprentice who is cursed at as well :-)  Your last bake looks good, maybe a little pale.  I say, make sure to bake your bread to 205 F on the inside and the outside will take care of itself.  Check your oven temperature with an oven thermometer too.My ovens all run 25 F low but even 50 F or more is not unheard of either.

Happy baking

Les Nightingill's picture
Les Nightingill

@dabrownman: Really? You can discriminate between 90% proofed and 92%?

This is my current challenge, understanding when my dough is proofed ready for the oven. My poke-test seems inconclusive. Volume is notoriously hard to estimate. I accept that (like getting to Carnegie Hall) it just takes practice. I'm just guessing readiness at the moment.

What are your tips dabrownman?

cfiiman's picture
cfiiman

Thanks for the replies.  I agree completely, I've been researching and it seems that others who have had my issue left in in a wee bit longer, some just opened the oven door and let it rest in there another 15 minutes after baking.  I actually purposely pulled it out b/c I burned (slightly) one loaf and I just can't stand the taste of burned bread, not sure why, so I have to be very careful as there is a fine line between the perfect brown I guess and slightly burnt which I would want to throw out lol.  I'll be testing another one tonight and try to bake it a little longer.  I will also try the cast iron skillet steam as well and see how that does.

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

is hard to produce. I use (2) of Sylvia's steaming loaf pans half full sf water and kitchen towel rolled up inside and a 12" CI skillet with lava rocks covering the bottom also half full of water.  I preheat my oven to 500 F and put the steaming pans and the CI skillet on the bottom rack of the oven oven with the stone right above it and another stone 10" above that when the oven hits 450 F.  The stones will lag the oven temperature by 20 minutes.  So when the oven hits 500 F I set the timer for 20 minutes.  By this time the stones are at 500F and the steam is billowing.  Then it is time to  bake with steam for 8-25 minutes depending on the bake - bagels and rolls or a huge 2,000 g boule.  I use 15 minutes for a 1,000 g loaf.

Happy baking

cfiiman's picture
cfiiman

Well tried to bake a half whole wheat version tonight with less than stellar results.  I didn't realize how much hydration the WW soaked up.  I didn't get nearly the oven spring and the crumb was much more dense, but the taste was SO MUCH BETTER than just the pretty white APF loafs.  Any tips on how to make this better?  I know I need some more water but I was reading about adding gluten or something to help develop it to trap more air pockets?  Also I made the exact same size as the one above, however I bet the half WW loaf came out at least 30% or more smaller than the one above, is that just from less expansion?